Sexy Feminists Read: Sally Koslow's 'With Friends Like These'

Sally Koslow’s latest novel, With Friends Like These, tackles one of our favorite topics: the challenges of female friendships, especially as we grow up and grow older. We talked to Koslow (who graciously read at our recent Readings & Rubdowns series) about how men, marriage, and real estate can come between even the best of pals — and she gave us some very wise advice about nurturing our girl-on-girl friendships. (She is a very smart lady.)

You’ve said you wanted to show female friends growing apart over issues other than the traditional ones (i.e. men!). Can you talk about some of these other issues and why you chose them instead?

Whenever a commodity is scare, people will compete for it. In today’s world
where jobs are hard to come by, it’s not uncommon for friends to covet the same
position, especially since many of us met one another through our work. One of
the situations in With Friends like These focuses on a professional opportunity.
A second situation connects to kids: one spot at an excellent kindergarten that
two sets of parents would jump over a desk to get for their child. Again, with American schools not as strong as they once were, it’s a sign of the times that parents may come to blows over who gets into an excellent school. I know parents of high school seniors who refuse to divulge where their child has applied to college for fear that their friend’s kid will apply to the same school and be the stronger candidate. The third conflict in the novel arises over real estate. This may strike you as odd, but talk to any residential broker and you’ll discover it isn’t unusual for people who know one another to secretly chase the same appealing, well-priced house or condo.

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Five Things You Can Do to Stand With Planned Parenthood

This handy primer comes courtesy of the folks at Planned Parenthood themselves:

What actually happened?
The House of Representatives voted last Friday to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funding.  Here’s what that means:
  • Over 800 Planned Parenthood health centers provide primary and preventive care to millions of women, men and teens every year: lifesaving breast and cervical cancer screenings, annual exams, birth control, HIV testing, STI testing and treatment.  These services account for 97% Planned Parenthood’s work.
  • Certain federal funding streams – Medicaid (reimbursement for services), Title X family planning funding and related 340B drug pricing (loosely speaking, funding for supplies and education) – make Planned Parenthood an affordable, safety-net provider for millions who would otherwise forgo primary and preventive care (which costs all of us more in the long run).  This funding is what Friday’s vote would bar.
  • This funding has nothing to do with abortion: legislation has prohibited federal dollars funding abortion since most of us were children.  Abortion accounts for 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services.  And yet, of course, it has everything to do with abortion: the same people who say they are opposed to abortion are putting massive effort into undermining delivery of vital education and resources that help prevent the need for it.

Link of the Day: Afghan Women's Lives in Prison

Thanks to the Afghan Women’s Writing Project — and one of their brave writers’ journalistic enterprise — we get an inside look at women’s lives in prison there in this fascinating piece. The AWWP is a great organization that provides mentoring from American writers for Afghan women who want to express themselves — something they’re not encouraged or allowed to do in their country. If you’re looking for a charity worth donating to, this is a great one; they’re currently raising funds for their secured Internet cafe where the women can go to write.

SF Talking Points: Judge Rules That Women Who Wear High Heels And Tube Tops Are Inviting Rape

Canadian Judge Doesn’t Send Rapist To Jail Because “Sex Was In The Air”: In a case where the woman was wearing (gasp!) a tube top with no bra, high heels, and “plenty of makeup,” it was more OK for the man she was with, Kenneth Rhodes, to force intercourse with her on a dark highway. At least that’s what Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar decided. Poor guy; he was just a “clumsy Don Juan.” He sure was clumsy — he left a permanent scar on the victim’s knee from the the attack. But “Protection of society is not advanced one iota by putting Mr. Rhodes in jail,” Dewar said. That’s where he is oh, so wrong.

While the judge maintained that this case shouldn’t be seen as a precedent, how can it not be? This sounds like a ruling that would result from language like “forcible rape” — well, slow down there, let’s take into account just how forcible it was. She was dressed like she was asking for it? Check. The two involved were drinking? Check. Well, then, any time a woman wears a tube top and makeup and has a few drinks, she better expect to end her night with a bit of rape.

How does Dewer not realize how disgusting the message he’s sending is? [Read more...]

SF Talking Points: Crazy Things Can Happen When You're Fertile, A Site For Lady Journalists

Are We Really “More Like Mammals”? Adding to the recent evolutionary psychology trend, the study of “relationship maintenance,” an experiment conducted at Florida State University revealed some new things about how males react to ovulating women. According to the results, single males find fertile women more attractive, and men who are in a relationship with another woman find them less attractive. John Tierney of the New York Times wrote about it at length, taking it upon himself to draw quite a few conclusions from the bit of data available. Like, the men in relationships didn’t find the woman as good-looking as the others did, “…presumably because at some level they sensed she then posed the greatest threat to their long-term relationships. To avoid being enticed to stray, they apparently told themselves she wasn’t all that hot anyway.” This seems a bit dicey, because really, who knows why they didn’t find the woman attractive? They weren’t asked. Tierney goes on try to make sense of this, saying,

“Natural selection favored those who stayed together long enough to raise children: the men and women who could sustain a relationship by keeping their partners happy. They would have benefited from the virtue to remain faithful, or at least the wiliness to appear faithful while cheating discreetly.” [Read more...]

Union Women's Voices in Wisconsin

I threw something out on Twitter this morning regarding the ongoing conservative pushback on protesting union members in Wisconsin:

You’ll notice it’s always “lazy overpaid teachers” and never “lazy overpaid ironworkers.” I wonder why that is.

Friends speculated it was because teachers seemed, on balance, less scary, less able to physically retaliate against such bullying. However, it’s most likely that many of the teachers’ voices being heard in Wisconsin, and now around the country as workers fight to preserve collective bargaining rights, are female.

I sat in on worker testimony in the Wisconsin General Assembly on Sunday, and most of the stories I heard in opposition to the Republican governor’s budget bill were women’s stories:

I have a son with autism, and his school is facing service cuts if this bill is passed.

My roommate is a nurse’s aid and makes $15 an hour caring for others. Don’t take away her right to what little money she does make.

I’m a teacher, and the children in my classroom need the best teachers they can get. Strip us of our rights and you strip them of their education.

My husband and I both work for the state and both our livelihoods are at risk.

Women’s voices, women’s faces, women’s stories. They came from professions likely to be heavily female: home care workers, office support staffers, nurses. Some arrived with children in tow, or with their elderly parents. They’re the ones being tarred as lazy and overpaid and being condescendingly told to “get back to work” and “get back to class” and “stop whining.”

One floor below, circling the Capitol rotunda in solidarity with those testifying upstairs, were firefighters and steamfitters and plumbers and electricians, big guys in hard hats with rough hands, there in solidarity. They see their cause as common with the schoolteacher and the nurse — so why don’t their political opponents and adversaries in the press?

The definition of a union worker is as broad as the definition of an American, and singling women workers — and professions which are traditionally female in this country — out as representative for ridicule just because they’re the easiest to pick on adds another layer of unfairness to what is already a monumental example of ill-treatment. This is a tough enough argument to have without adding sexism to the mix.

For more on this, see Amanda Marcotte.


Thanks for Another Great Readings and Rubdowns, New York Sexy Feminists!

We love you all for coming out to our Readings & Rubdowns series this week at Birch Coffee, cosponsored by the National Writers Collective … and we love our readers, Rachel Shukert and Sally Koslow, for their particularly sexy readings. Shout-out to Planned Parenthood for bringing the all-important condoms and Peter Dagger for providing most excellent back and neck massages. See, we told you it was sexy! (Anyone looking for a great massage therapist can find him at

Why We Need Planned Parenthood: They're There for Us When No One Else Is

I will now tell my one Planned Parenthood story.

When I moved to Seattle in the mid-90s I first lived in a small prefab house behind a bigger, older house in the Judkins Park neighborhood, which, at the time, was a bit of a no-man’s land. I have no idea what it’s like now, but in 1995 it was all fast food joints and car dealerships and one really amazing Goodwill, and then a bunch of houses that were sketchy enough that you wouldn’t want to walk around late at night, though it was definitely not worse than the neighborhoods I had lived in Baltimore during college or DC after that. But our rent was dirt cheap – I want to say it was $750 for the house – and there were three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and we had a backyard, and there was this sweet foliage-lined walkway you could wander along and peer over all your neighbor’s fences. One of them had an old horse who would come over and eat dandelions out of your hand. So I guess when I moved in there, at least for a little while, I didn’t think it was that bad.

I don’t know if I had the power at that time to judge if a situation was good or bad anyway. I was fully in transition. I had no clue what I was doing with my life. I was half-assedly temping for the city, and going to rock shows every night, and writing extremely bad poetry. I shared the main floor of the house with a woman who worked at Elliott Bay Book Company, and she was smart enough to keep her nose in the books when necessary. There was also another roommate who lived in the basement, this young ex-military guy from Minnesota named Peter. Our relationship quickly disintegrated, and when we fought he called me Princess repeatedly. I found him physically intimidating.

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20-somethings Not Using Contraception: One More Reason to Support Planned Parenthood

Debate has raged aplenty recently over teen pregnancy — and whether girls are getting knocked up just to get on TV’s Teen Mom (even though studies say the show’s companion series, 16 and Pregnant, is more likely to scare kids into contraception, and teen birth rates are dropping). But there’s another concerning, if less scandalizing, birth rate that’s on the rise: that of 20-somethings who have unplanned pregnancies.

Yes, they’re technically adults, and they don’t have to walk through high school halls with swollen bellies. Sometimes, they have jobs, and maybe even apartments, which helps a little. But among unmarried women in their 20s, a full 7 out of 10 pregnancies are unplanned, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy — which means their own future plans are cut short, their relationships with the fathers are often forced, and their babies are affected by it all. Especially at a time when many 20-somethings are still living with their parents and undermployed, at best, this fact is almost as serious a problem as teen pregnancy.

[Read more...]

The House Has Barred Planned Parenthood from Federal Funding

Please show your support for Planned Parenthood as the bill to block funding for all of its services — birth control and HIV and STD testing, among other things — goes to the Senate. Sign the Open Letter to Congress here.

And read up on the issue here.

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